Leadership, Vision and Steve Jobs

I’ve been looking at the biographies of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook on the Apple Website. Gosh what a contrast!

There is Steve whose picture is now, strikingly, in colour, with his background in the Imagineering world of Disney and Pixar.

While Tim looks bright, cheerful, pleasant and just a little corporate.

But let us hope Tim has learned much from the master. It really is vision, quality and understanding the market that marks out success for Apple, rather than sensitive handling of employees or the supply chain!

Steve Jobs spent 12 tumultuous, painful years of failure before returning to Apple to make it the success it is today. He learned about leadership the hard way!

Yes, leadership, because his management style still sounds unusual at best!

“Steve might be capable of reducing someone to tears,” according to former colleague Pat Crecine, “but it’s not because he’s mean-spirited; it’s because he’s absolutely single minded, almost manic, in his pursuit of quality and excellence.”

John Sculley adds: “He possessed an innate sense of knowing exactly how to extract the best from people.”

Steve’s view: “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”

The Australian newspaper, Herald Sun, published a story about a girl from Melbourne (Hollie) with vision problems whose life was changed with iPad and its ability to zoom in on text materials. She wrote to Steve and he replied as follows;

“Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Do you mind if I read your email to a group of our top 100 leaders at Apple? Thanks, Steve”

He even asked for the picture above! Steve has had a habit of taking what he considered to be “Apple’s top 100 people” to a yearly offsite retreat and another habit of his is to read his favourite emails to an audience as inspiration.

A year ago the Telegraph described him as messianic, evangelistic and utterly devoted to the art of making beautiful products that ‘just work’!

Steve Jobs is thought of very highly not just by those within his industry, but in the wider business community.

Even Bill Gates, widely seen as Jobs’ nemesis, has a great deal of respect for his rival, and the way he revitalised Apple’s fortunes. “He’s done a fantastic job. Of all the leaders in the industry that I’ve worked with, he showed more inspiration and he saved the company.”

Rupert Murdoch rates him as the best chief executive around. “He’s got such incredible focus. He’s got such power inspiring the people around him who work for him”.

Kevin Compton, who was a senior executive at Businessland during Steve’s years in the wilderness described him after his return to Apple: “He’s the same Steve in his passion for excellence, but a new Steve in his understanding of how to empower a large company to realize his vision.”

Let us hope for Apple’s sake that he has passed on that particular gift to Tim Cook.

Leading Change – Your Vision in an Uncertain Future – Scenario Planning

Image via CrunchBase

Every successful change programme starts with a vision of the future.  But where is your vision going to come from, when the pace of change is continuing to increase?

Scenarios are now widely used by governments, businesses and voluntary organisations to help them plan for the future. This can be done on a large or small scale; as part of a wider planning exercise or on their own as a way to develop thinking inside the organisation.

Scenarios are not simply snapshots but fully fleshed out stories of potential futures.  Each is researched in detail to allow the reader to fully imagine themselves in this future world and consider how they would respond.

Scenario Planning was first used by the Rand Corporation in 1948.

By the 1970s the technique had been further developed and was being used by the Royal Dutch Shell Company.

As faith in traditional planning tools weakened, interest in scenario planning grew stronger.

Both Sam Palmisano at IBM and Steve Jobs at Apple have used scenario planning successfully to help their companies deal with global change and uncertain futures.

Many organisations plan for the future or, at least, for a future that they believe or hope will happen.  Usually, this future is based on ‘best’ or ‘worst’ case projections of current trends.  And surprise, surprise, it often bears an uncanny resemblance to the present state;

  • Customers will continue to do and think as they do now!
  • They will make similar choices to the ones they make now!
  • Supply chains will stay the same!
  • Competitors will offer similar products and services!

So the organisation itself will continue to do more or less the same as it does now!

This approach works best in stable, predictable environments!  But for most of us now, that stable and predictable environment no longer exists!.  We are all facing greater uncertainty and experiencing more change than ever before.

We need an approach that helps us to

  • Make sense of what is going on,
  • Spot new trends and events
  • Prepare for that uncertain future
  • Make changes to what we do and how we work  ,

Scenarios are a tool that we can use to help us imagine and manage the future more effectively.

The scenario process highlights the principal drivers of change and the uncertainties facing organisations today!  It explores how they might play out in the future.

The result is a set of stories that offer alternative views of what the future might look like.

Through discussion, they allow us to explore what we would do differently in each scenario.  Then we can identify success criteria, consider new ways of working and define new relationships.

With each scenario, the factors, and how we might respond to them, will differ!  But we can practice what we might do and begin to plan for it!

The discussion about scenarios can help groups build a shared understanding of how to respond to the increasingly complex changes taking place in the world about us.

The great strength of scenario planning is that it can be used to look at today’s challenges from a different perspective. The process of identifying and examining how current factors and trends might play out in the future helps us focus on the likely impact of those trends on our own organisations.

Quite often, participants find that the impacts are going to be bigger and happen sooner than they had realised.

Ultimately, we can use scenario planning to help anticipate, prepare for or manage change.

I’m going to consider this theme further this week.  But if you have experience of scenario planning and its impact on your organisation, can you share it here please so that others can benefit

Related articles

  • Is Your Agency Doing Scenario Planning? (threeminds.organic.com)
  • Rehearsing the future [Guy Rigby] (ecademy.com)
  • 4 reasons why an increased pace of change means greater unpredictability (rossdawsonblog.com)
  • 1o Ways to be Better at Visioning (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Kotter Model Step 3: Create a Vision for Change (wisewolftalking.com)
Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her atwendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439